help me pick a new laptop
June 5, 2004 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Apple don't sell what I want. Please hope me choose a new laptop. [ /\/\ | ]

I've been pondering a new computer for a while, and have been thinking about a PowerBook, but have finally decided to split my needs in two and stop looking for a one-size-fits-all solution. So, I'm keeping my current G4 tower with its plethora of cards and add-ons and stack o' RAID drives for all the "proper" work I need to do, with the big screen and the fast processor and yada yada.

Now I don't need the capabilities of the 'book, I've decided I don't want the size either. I want something small (about the size of a PowerBook if everything on the main unit except the space taken up by the keys was excluded) that I can take with me on assignment and to work. It'll handle all my emails and writing.

Shopping list:
Good keyboard (this is priority 1.)
Good battery life (at least four hours)
Proper HD (so I can take all my emails with me)
WiFi and optionally bluetooth
Small as possible without sacrificing on keyboard.

Since Apple aren't up to the job, I'm guessing this means I have to go Windows. I've never really used it before, so am completely in the dark on this one. Does such a machine exist? I thought the OQO might be it, but in reviews the keyboard looks terrible for anything more than short messages.
posted by bonaldi to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
I'd try cnet, pcmag, and pcworld for reviews. There's just too many options and manufacturers for your specifications. Good battery life, WiFi, and small (and I assume, light) as possible, you want a Centrino (aka Pentium M processor). I've got a Gateway 200 series that's probably a little big for what you want, but it's Centrino, gets 4 hours of battery with wireless turned on, looks cool, and I love it.

There's Dell, but from what I read a year ago when I was buying my laptop, they've grown so rapidly that they haven't been able to keep up, and their customer service has suffered terribly. Maybe they've improved, but I'm not a fan.
posted by gramcracker at 10:18 PM on June 5, 2004

The Vaio TR series of laptops might be what you want. They're teensy yet widescreen, well-reviewed, have wifi & bluetooth, etc. And if you're the type of Mac user who appreciates industrial design, they're about as nice looking as you'll find on the dark side. I've never used one so I can't speak to the quality of the keyboard, but sometimes I see people with 'em around town and I feel slight twinges of jealousy that are only calmed by taking out my (gargantuan by comparison) PowerBook and petting it gently.
posted by bcwinters at 10:26 PM on June 5, 2004

Probably worth taking a look at Dynamism.
posted by dobbs at 10:38 PM on June 5, 2004

If you want good keyboards, I'd sent you to IBM to get a Thinkpad.
posted by gen at 10:55 PM on June 5, 2004

i'll add to the discussion of the VAIO TR and say i love mine.

i bought it in feb. and have been using it for dvd-based presentations for my classes, student powerpoints, "stealing" wifi all around greenwich village, and working on poems.

the keyboard is incredibly small (as is the laptop itself), but i've never ever had a problem typing on it--never.

my only suggestion would be to get a wireless laptop mouse; even though the touchpad is more than adequate, the mouse adds comfort to extended use.
posted by ronv at 7:23 AM on June 6, 2004

Whee! I love these threads! (And thanks for the link to my company, dobbs.)

I like the TRs (especially for the Xbrite screen) but they are tres heavy if you don't want that internal optical drive. Also, battery life is not so hot.

You might want to look at the new Panasonic R3, which weighs just over two pounds and has a manufacturer's estimated battery life of around nine hours. 60gb HDD -- anything bigger is only available on a machine that has an optical drive. Also, I love the keyboards on the Panasonics.

There's also a sub-sub notebook (the Sharp CV50) but I'm thinking that it might be too small for what you need. Definitely the OQO will be.

Also the Sharp MM20 (which is similar to a Japanese machine I used to work on, but is available here in the states now.) The HDD is only 20gb, though.

Anyway, hope this helps. :)
posted by sugarfish at 7:38 AM on June 6, 2004

I've been sort-of laptop shopping for awhile, know a couple of people who love their VAIOs. Still getting a little sticker-shock over the teensy one that's really nice--I can't justify spending over $2000 on a second (who am I kidding: fourth!) computer.

I've been looking longingly at some of the Sharp small laptops online, too, but don't have direct experience of them.

Are you sure an IBook won't do what you want? Fair enough not to consider them, if you need to stick with a windows-based platform, but the smaller ones seem to be nicely priced for something as small.
posted by gimonca at 7:44 AM on June 6, 2004

Fujitsu S Series.

- They do indeed have good keyboards. There was some controversy about this because a reviewer was sent a pre-production model that had a crappy keyboard, but this issue has been resolved.

- Avg. battery life is 4 hours, you can put in a second battery for 8 hours of power.

- HDs up to 80GB.

- Yes, 802.11 a/g and bluetooth.

- 13.3 inch or 14.1 inch screens. Both systems weigh only about 4 pounds. 13.3 inch screen comes with new-fangled "bright" screen.
posted by falconred at 10:10 AM on June 6, 2004

Maybe I'm being dense (since I just rolled out of bed), but exactly why have you eliminated Apple from the search? It sounds like the 12" PowerBook G4 is what you want.
posted by nathan_teske at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2004

Response by poster: I eliminated it purely on grounds of size. Since I don't need all the power (I have my home machine for that) portability is king. And the 12" is just too big for me to take *everywhere* - it'd end up being a decision in the morning, and I don't want that.

This R3 thing sounds top, and the Vaio is verrrry tempting indeed. If only I could get Mac OS X on them.
posted by bonaldi at 1:55 PM on June 6, 2004

I'm with Nathan. You've listed no reasons for eliminating Apple.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:56 PM on June 6, 2004

Eep. You posted while I was typing.

But: 12 inches is too big? I dunno. Seems small to me, at least compared to the 15-inch.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:57 PM on June 6, 2004

Response by poster: It is small, no doubt about it. but it's not small enough especially compared to like a Psion 5 or something. I want a machine that I can chuck in my knapsack and take pretty much everywhere. With the 12", I'd be looking at it in the morning going "ooh, I'm on the train, but then I'll be at work for an hour, hell I don't need it today" and then need it later. Just too big.

I'd look at something like the IBM PC110, but the keyboard has to be feasible too, and its isn't.
posted by bonaldi at 2:33 PM on June 6, 2004

Mmmmm. Psion. That was... or should have been, rather... the killer portable.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:46 PM on June 6, 2004

And I'm with Mo - my Sunday paper is larger than the 12" Powerbook ;)
posted by nathan_teske at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2004

If only I could get Mac OS X on them.

I really think you should re-evaluate the 12" Powerbook. It is really not that much bigger than the other sub-notebooks we are recommending here, and I don't need to tell you that it comes with OS X. With the recent refresh, it now comes with a 1.33 GHz G4 too- a very speedy processor.

You have a basic problem: anything small does not have a good keyboard by definition. So if the keyboard is really #1, then just get the Powerbook, because it comes with the best operating system. To get a Wintel machine only on the basis of size seems silly, to me.
posted by gen at 4:11 PM on June 6, 2004

If you like the OQO, take a look at the Sony UX 50. It doesn't have a hard drive, but I think memory sticks go up to about 2 GB these days. Should be plenty for your email.

Its CPU is slow enough that SSH is usable, but takes a while to negotiate the connection.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2004

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